In his two years with the Oakland Raiders, the NFL’s premier athlete completely fell off the face of the earth.
Randy Moss’s first-year numbers with the Silver and Black—60 catches for 1008 yards—would have sufficed for 90 percent of the receivers in the league...but not for the Freak.
His second year was even more disappointing—42 catches for 553 yards and 3 TDs, all career lows by a large margin.
Critic upon critic wrote off the 30-year-old, claiming he'd lost the flair and ability that made him electrifying early in his career. For all intents and purposes, Moss was considered a has-been.
And then things started to turn.
In what may turn out to be the most lopsided deal of the new millennium, Moss was dealt to the Patriots in exchange for a fourth-round draft pick. Rumor had it that Moss had ripped off a 4.29 40 in an individual workout for Pats’ personnel, and excitement began to build in New England. It looked like Tom Brady might have an elite wide receiver to throw to for the first time in his storied career.
After Moss torched the Jets defense for 183 yards and a TD on Sunday, it became official:
Brady does have that elite wide receiver—and he's back. In a big way.
His presence is going to make the Patriots exceedingly difficult to beat this year.
So what gives? How can such a marvelously talented athlete have two dismal years playing for one team and then burst back onto the scene with another?
Is it Tom Brady?
In part, yes. But it goes much deeper than that....
Think of Moss as a hothouse flower. If his surroundings aren’t perfectly optimal, things go terribly awry.
It’s clear that Randy needs an excellent quarterback and a successful team in order to thrive—probably more so than other players. Though this is purely speculation, I think we might agree that if you'd put any other accomplished NFL receiver in Oakland for two years, his numbers wouldn't have dipped as much as Moss' did.
Are we to believe that if, say, Torry Holt or Marvin Harrison had been a Raider in 2006, either of them would have finished with fewer yards than Ronald Curry?
Not a chance.
In fact, I can only think of one other elite receiver who might have seen his numbers dip so precipitously...and for similar reasons.
Do I even have to say his name?
I’ll give you a hint: He wears No. 81 and plays his home games in the Lone Star State.
In any event, it’s a treat to see that Moss is back. If he remains in New England (I can’t fathom a reason why he wouldn’t be given an extension after this year), I’ve got a message to send to Jerry Rice:
Watch out, your records are in danger.
Okay, so perhaps that’s a bit of a stretch—but if there’s one thing we’ve learned, it’s that we shouldn't prematurely write off Randy Moss.